This post is the first of four I’ll be putting up themed around the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and how they impact on us as cyclists. “Fire” is being interpreted loosely, as light.
The clocks went back last week in the UK (and also in Mallorca); cycle-commuters across the country swapped riding in the morning dark for riding in the evening dark. The autumn clock-change always feels like the moment when the darkness comes (it prompted a couple of emails advertising bike-lights arriving in our inbox), but of course, changing the clock doesn’t make it darker, it merely changes when it’s dark. It might have some objective effect on cyclists’ ability to see, though: I feel that it’s harder to see the road when cycling in the evening twighlight than the morning twighlight (though why this might be so I don’t know).
We are a month past the autumn equinox now—when the day and night were of equal length, and also when the UK day-length equaled the Mallorca daylength. Today the south of the UK has 9hrs 50mins of daylight; but in Mallorca there’s 10hrs 35mins. As we get closer to the winter solstice, the difference in daylight between Mallorca and the UK will become more pronounced: there’s no point in the winter when you’ll need lights to do a full day’s riding in Mallorca. Coming to Mallorca means swapping riding in the dark, to riding in the daylight every day. Of course the biggest reason for this is not the greater day-length in Mallorca, but the fact that in Mallorca you’re on holiday: you can use the best hour of the day to ride, rather than fitting your cycling around work, family and life.
We’re back in Mallorca tomorrow after a few weeks in the UK, and I’m going to take bike-lights out with me this time; the reasons I’m doing it might apply to you too if you come for winter riding in Mallorca. Those reasons are to do with riding early in the morning before dawn. Despite the day being longer, Mallorca’s being on Euro-time means that dawn there is “later” at 7.15 there compared to 7.00 in the south of the UK; that means that there’s less time to squeeze a ride in before business hours. We’re busy organizing logistics for the coming season, so I need to be back to meet with the chefs, cleaners, and drivers we’ll be working with this season; taking lights means I can be on the road and riding by 6am, and be back by 9 after a good ride. If you’re coming to Mallorca with non-cycling family or friends, lights might be a good way of getting three-hour rides in while still doing your sociable duty with your fellow holiday-makers.
Another reason I’ll try out lights this autumn is to get me to the base of the best climbs for the break of dawn. Although only the Soller Pass is by-passed by a tunnel, none of Mallorca’s mountain passes are really busy roads in winter; but nevertheless, the pleasure of riding them without a single car is a true joy. This is my second reason for using lights on the bike: to have the climbs of Mallorca all to myself to ride in the first light of the day. Lights don’t weigh much anymore, maybe you should pack them when you travel to us in Mallorca, so that you can share this treat.